Late Friday night, I realized my husband and I were in a state of denial. As usual, I panicked.
“Look at everything we have to do,” I said. “If we’re going to rent out our house and go to New York in September, we’ve got to get started.”
He pretended to be asleep, ignoring me. That was fine. I went ahead with the conversation, speaking in my fake husband voice. This is what you can do when you’ve been married a long time — anticipate, with great precision, what the other person is going to say.
“Everything looks fine!” the fake husband said. “What are you so worried about? Lie down and take deep breaths.”
“Are you crazy?” I replied. “We’ve got to clean out every room. This is going to be as much trouble as moving!”
“Stop worrying. We’ll get it done,” the fake husband said. “You’re getting too excited.”
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING EXCITED? I’M THE ONLY REALIST IN THIS HOUSE!”
“I’m so glad I don’t have to talk,” my real husband said. “I’m going back to sleep. Can you lower your voice a little — and mine, too?”
Well, you can see what I have to put up with on the domestic front. It’s amazing I have a shred of self-esteem left. I stopped carrying on the conversation (it’s exhausting to have to speak for two people when you’re basically an introvert) and went to sleep. The next morning, I wake up with a sense of renewed purpose.
We clean out our bedroom bureaus and our closets. We cart off piles of clothes and other assorted debris. I love this kind of work; it makes me feel cleansed and lighter, almost noble. Look at me! I’m organized! My husband hates it. He worries he’s throwing out something that will have great meaning in the future. Like the cowboy shirt that’s older than Roy Rogers and the two Hawaiian shirts. Who knows when they might come in handy? I’m going to regret this, I know!
We take photos of the most important rooms in the house for our rental ad. Thanks to my obsessive Craigslist habit, I now know all the little tricks. Make the bed. Clear out the clutter. Do not leave crumbs on the kitchen counter. Make sure the sunlight is streaming in. If you’re going to show the bathroom, will you put the toilet seat down, for God’s sake? Things like that. Some people might think I’ve been wasting untold amounts of time on Craigslist. But no. I’ve been learning.
We’re maybe 5 percent of the way through our overhaul, but already the inevitable thought occurs: Why do we make our house look better than it’s ever looked before when we’re getting ready to vacate it? Why don’t we do this kind of work for ourselves?
See the proof: http://www.utpsyc.org/House/. Wow. I’d rent that house myself.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)